Larger than life

By Andrea Louise Thomas  Photos Yanni 

Mornington artist Marta Gola likes to work on a grand scale. She draws portraits in graphite pencil and charcoal on paper or canvases which are 2.1 x 1.4 metres! She has to work from a ladder. Her largest work to date is 4 metres long. “I like the physicality and energy of working with big gestures. It’s really satisfying. The works are larger than life. It’s an extension of reality for me,” she says.

As subject matter, Marta is most inspired by people. She loves their complexity. “I love to use the body to illustrate feeling, intimacy, family and state of mind. Anything about being human and how we feel drives me,” she says. She loves the sense of connection she gets with people and loves to convey that through her art.

Marta drew incessantly from childhood. She was always drawn to people and figurative work. “Art was always my thing. I was the girl who was good at art. As a shy, reserved person it was the perfect outlet,” she says. She didn’t really want anything else so she pursued art all through her school years.

When it came time to apply for art colleges, she was accepted by all of them, but she was determined to go to the Victorian College of the Arts. At seventeen, she was the youngest person in the program. It was highly conceptual and theoretical which was sometimes a challenge, but she stuck with it and got her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing.

She took a year off to work in London and travel through Europe. She wanted to reconnect to her roots. Marta was born in Poland and moved to Australia with her parents when she was two.

She was quite lucky to make it. When the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine occurred in 1986, Poland was downwind from it. As a baby Marta suffered badly from radiation sickness and it was touch and go. When she recovered, her parents fled Communist controlled Poland. They were fortunate to get out.

While she was in London, Marta was working in retail and visual merchandising. A writer friend teed her up with a creative director who planted the seed about working as a graphic designer. 

When she came back from London, Marta completed a Certificate IV in Graphic Design at Shillington College of Graphic Design in Melbourne. She worked for a number of years for a branding agency and still does that work as a freelancer.

Marta and her husband moved from Fitzroy to the Mornington Peninsula five years ago. They were initially going to move to London, but when they found out they were having a baby, they had second thoughts. Leaving vibrant Fitzroy to come to the Peninsula was quite an adjustment. 

Two years ago, Marta realised she could not live without being an artist. She had to be true to herself and was compelled to pursue her art.
Marta found her tribe when she joined the Peninsula Studio Trail. “The PST has made me feel connected and part of a community. It transports me into a world of ideas,” she says.

She has had her own studio for the past year and a half and has found it to be fantastic for her mental health. Marta has got two rambunctious little boys and while she feels motherhood has clarified things in her world, she also needs to escape into her world of art. “Art is my medicine, my mediation, my prayer. 

I’m moving a burning energy inside me when I’m doing art,”
she says. Now she feels she can truly identify as an artist.

Marta likes drawing in black and white because she feels it is highly expressive and emotive. “I love the fact that drawing is a vulnerable and earnest process of creating. It’s in constant flux. 

It’s not a concrete or stagnant thing. I love mark making, lines, gestural marks, erasing, removing and remaking. Drawing is so alluring. There is no distance from the artist’s hand to the artwork. Drawing is exciting because it’s imperfect and immediate,” she says.

Marta is able to share her work and creation stories through Instagram and her website, but it really has to be viewed to get the sense of scale. Her studio can be seen by appointment or viewed during one of the Peninsula Studio Trail’s open weekends. It is certainly worth the trip to see this artist working larger than life.

Peninsula Essence – July 2021